How the NHS has persevered through recruitment pains

Doctor

When Dipesh Parmar signed on to become Associate Workforce Director – Resourcing at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust at the start of the year, little did he know just how frenzied the NHS recruitment was about to become.

Hired to help put a commercial spin on the traditional NHS model, Dipesh was seeking to start a transformation programme that would help deliver resourcing based improvements and efficiencies of scale. But within months COVID-19 had struck and plans took a back seat. Now it was time to ensure workforces could manage through a pandemic.

“It was, and still is, a challenging yet rewarding time. You build a profound respect for everyone in the workforce persevering despite the risks – from the healthcare professionals right the way to the cleaners working in infected wards,” he explains.

COVID-19 has unsettled many recruitment ambitions but for Dipesh, it has allowed his NHS trust to be more creative in the upheaval.

“COVID gives us opportunities – normally we are very process & protocol driven but now we can rip up the manual and start again. We have redesigned and restructured departments, invested more in technology and worked to strengthen our resourcing skills to meet demand,” he explains.

“The intensity of COVID means we have to be monitoring resourcing constantly to deliver resource availability at all times – so we have had to shift the team working hours to 7 days a week and increase hours from 9-5 to 7 – 8. I need to be able to report on and be accountable for the resourcing team efforts at a time when requests for staff have been frenetic. Parts of the trust have been overwhelmed by shortages and team members themselves were getting sick,” Dipesh adds.

COVID has also taken its toll in the close knit circles of NHS workforces. Where it was staff who were ill, there was a need for more emotional support to be made available.

Dipesh explains: “Every day is different. We have to pivot based on what is happening around us whilst constantly seeking to be more agile in our resourcing operations. I had to be able to be on top of everything happening in the department and be accountable. It has given me the chance to bounce off ideas with peers, but ultimately the Trust need me to be able to instinctively make recommendations and then see them through – conscious of direct impacts on the workforce and team wellbeing. It has included tough measures like placing staff into shielding and acting as a family liaison while also seeking for backfill.”

Support from overseas has also been challenging. Nurses from outside of the UK have had to undertake virtualised inductions & onboarding while others were unable to reach the trust due to airports shutting worldwide. “It has had big impacts on our staffing and we have had to incorporate contingency plans to fill gaps in services. It is super challenging but rewarding and for the resourcing team, it has certainly broadened skillsets professionally. They are now more willing to flex approaches to think outside the box and pivot”, says Dipesh.

As lockdown conditions begin to be relaxed, Dipesh reflects on the lessons learned from the pandemic at its peak.

“It has been an interesting experience and the exposure really embodies the never give up philosophy. It has really shown how innovation is key for allowing employers to be outside the norm in saturated markets like the NHS. I hope that innovation can help us tap into the advocacy the NHS currently has to attract and hire new staff, particularly in areas where we have gaps to fill like niche roles. It is up to us now to build pipelines of candidates and create career stories – especially amongst the young. Automation and personalisation will be key to breaking perceptions and barriers. The NHS can rise and it is time to change the model and truly focus on great talent.”

Dipesh was talking in a FIRM Talent Talks Podcast sponsored by Oleeo. Listen here: https://ow.ly/hSKV50AhxzM

Learn more about how Oleeo helps the NHS with recruitment technology: https://info.oleeo.com/en/next-gen-nhs-recruitment-starts-here

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